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New Mexico Primary Care Practice Leading Effort to Help Patients with Depression

In 2014 the providers and staff of Quito Osuna Carr, MD & Associates, a small family practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico, began a journey to help their patients who were suffering from depression. Today, nearly three years later, their only regret is not starting sooner.

“I would have done it earlier,” office manager Priscilla Garcia said. “We find so much out from general screening. Everyone should be doing it.”

Priscilla says their journey was not easy. Her office was feeling the pressure of the federal government to implement new requirements plus burdensome reporting measures and ICD-10, and taking on a new initiative just felt completely daunting.

"I felt it on the business side,” she said. “How am I going to implement this? It boils down to training, awareness and each department (front desk, medical assistant, clinicians, billing) being accountable.”

Despite the challenge, Priscilla and her team knew that behavioral health was a worthy cause to pursue. Their providers were noticing that more patients seemed to be suffering from behavioral health issues, and the topic was becoming popular at the clinical conferences they were attending. That’s when HealthInsight New Mexico project coordinator Edy Taylor showed up at their door.

“Now we have Edy coming in talking about depression statistics, and it really helped encourage us to start screening,” Priscilla said.

Edy and the HealthInsight New Mexico behavioral health team were reaching out to primary care practices in New Mexico to offer cost-free help and information on depression and alcohol misuse in the state. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) was funding the initiative to improve behavioral health, and HealthInsight New Mexico was looking for practices in the community to partner with. Priscilla knew signing up was the right thing to do.

"We need to be here for the patients, no matter what."

Edy worked with Priscilla and her team to identify and implement screening tools in their practice. Priscilla says it took effort on everyone’s part, but training was key to overcoming challenges. At first they decided to screen every patient who met certain criteria. Then, they started screening everyone who was age-appropriate and in need of screening.

“It took about two years fully, but it just naturally became part of our process to screen everyone,” Priscilla said. “We prep our charts daily and look for needed screenings. Then, at intake we look at the problem list to see if it is needed.”

So, how have the patients responded to being screened for depression? Priscilla admits they don’t always like being screened, but they still participate in the screening.

“They’re not always willing to answer these questions, but we really appreciate their patience, cooperation and help to improve and focus on the quality of their health care.”

Everyone’s participation in the screening process, from the patients to the staff and clinicians, is helping patients with depression get the best care possible from Quito Osuna Carr, MD & Associates.

"The clinicians are reviewing the results and talking to the patients to get them the help they need,” Priscilla said. "The screening process for behavioral health is a win-win."
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